Two championships in one season: 1969 Kansas City Chiefs
The American Football League (AFL) was a mere seven years previous and nonetheless didn’t have what it needed.
The league’s golf equipment had loved success, and each staff besides two nonetheless remained in its authentic metropolis. Not a single franchise had dissolved or folded, and growth was on the horizon in Miami after which later Cincinnati. Most groups made cash. The fanbase elevated each season and an increasing number of blue-chip gamers had been becoming a member of the league.
But but, the AFL nonetheless didn’t have what it needed most: respect. That is respect from the National Football League (NFL).
The older, extra established NFL had custom, one of the best gamers, franchises positioned in the most important markets, and the aura soccer chemistry on its aspect. The NFL had groups in Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Detroit, whereas the AFL featured golf equipment in smaller markets resembling San Diego, Oakland, and Buffalo.
Several cities spurned the AFL when provided an NFL franchise. Minnesota was initially granted one of the eight constitution AFL memberships however bolted for the NFL on the eve of their first-ever faculty draft. Atlanta was granted an AFL franchise however selected the NFL when pressured to decide on leagues.
Both leagues had a gents’s settlement to not signal away gamers at the moment below contract. But, the faculty draft was one other matter. The AFL provided extra money to one of the best draft-ready gamers and signed twice as many because the older league.
The AFL additionally went after NFL veterans whose contracts had expired and had been nonetheless negotiating with their NFL membership. Suddenly, veterans had an possibility. And the AFL was both their new house or a beneficial bargaining chip for use towards their present house deal with.
This, clearly, drove up participant contracts. Way up. Suddenly, a enterprise battle unwittingly had been created between the 2 leagues. And the homeowners didn’t prefer it – in each leagues.
Changes to the professional soccer panorama
The monetary mess that each the NFL and AFL introduced upon themselves was about to vary in the mid-1960s. Under the cloak of secret conferences, representatives from each leagues hammered out a merger settlement which targeted on 10 points. The highlights included a championship recreation between the 2 league champions after the 1966 season, a typical faculty draft and interleague preseason video games starting in 1967, and an entire merger with all 10 AFL groups becoming a member of the NFL starting with the 1970 season. The championship recreation initially was referred to as the “AFL-NFL Championship Game” and was later renamed the “Super Bowl” for the third recreation in the collection.
The impending merger meant that 1969 could be the ultimate 12 months for the AFL. And the Kansas City Chiefs would blow out the final candle.
The Chiefs had been probably the most profitable franchise in the AFL. They had received the league title in 1962 (because the Dallas Texans) and once more in 1966 to go together with their three division crowns. Their mixed win-loss report for the primary 9 years was an astounding 81-47-5. Three Super Bowls had been performed already, and the Chiefs had been the AFL consultant in one of them.
Their head coach from the inception, Hank Stram, was a grasp expertise evaluator. The franchise was capable of nab nice faculty athletes in addition to gamers from smaller, obscure colleges (together with the black faculties) and NFL castoffs whose potential had but to floor.
Running again Abner Haynes (North Texas State), kicker Jan Stenerud (Montana State), TE Morris Stroud (Clark Atlanta University), RB Stone Johnson and DT Buck Buchanan (Grambling State), QB Len Dawson (lower by the Cleveland Browns), LB Willie Lanier (Morgan State), CB Jim Marsalis (Tennessee State), RB Mike Garrett (drafted spherical 20), CB Emmitt Thomas (Bishop College), RB Jack Lee Hill (Southern University), punter Jerrel Wilson (Southern Miss), WR Otis Taylor (Prairie View), DT Jerry Mays and QB Mike Livingston (Southern Methodist), RB Ed Podolak (Iowa), WR Chris Burford (drafted Round 1 by Chiefs, Round 9 by NFL Browns), WR Gloster Richardson (Jackson State) and OG Dan Klepper (Omaha) had been all good illustrations of the participant analysis prowess of the Chiefs’ entrance workplace.
The Chiefs and Broadway Joe
From the AFL’s maiden season till 1967, the league championship recreation consisted of the 2 division winners squaring off for the title. Beginning in 1968, the second-place division groups would make the playoffs as properly.
For all of the success the Chiefs’ franchise loved, the staff had reached the playoffs in solely three seasons, successful the AFL title twice. The 1968 squad shared the Western Division crown with their heated rivals, the Oakland Raiders, with each groups recording 12-2 information. Then the Raiders embarrassed Ok.C. in the playoffs 41-6.
The AFL had Broadway Joe Namath and the high-flying New York Jets recent off their Super Bowl win over the NFL’s Baltimore Colts on the conclusion of the 1968 season. The inferior league had lastly received one thing of significance—and achieved it with its giant market staff main the way in which. Many referred to as the AFL win a fluke, and if those self same two groups had squared off 10 occasions the Colts, these observers stated, would win 9.
For the 1969 season, the Chiefs entered the 12 months with a way of function. And some severe modifications.
The late 1960s was a time of unrest in the United States, a time of revolt and the flexibility to query these in authority. Professional soccer was no totally different. Untraditional hairstyles, medication, loud music, freaky garments, medication, the unending battle in Vietnam, psychedelic music, unkempt facial hair, medication, free-love and “down with the establishment” had been the traits.
Unless you had been a member of the Chiefs.
Stram didn’t need any a part of this increasing counterculture life-style. In the summer season of 1969, the pinnacle coach launched a letter to his gamers stating that any type of facial hair was to not be tolerated. Hairstyles couldn’t be any longer than the hem of the helmet whereas sideburns needed to be trimmed with lengths now not than his personal. In addition, the staff would put on uniformed black jackets and grey pants for all street journeys, full with white shirts and matching black ties.
The staff would even line up for the nationwide anthem in a straight line in jersey numerical order. The huddle was constructed in the choir formation as a substitute of the same old round association. For his efforts, Stram was sometimes called “Little Caesar.”
But for all his strictness and guidelines, the Chiefs had been probably the most racially various staff in all soccer. Coach Stram cared for one factor solely; that was expertise and an eagerness to do nice issues on the sector. Roommates weren’t chosen by shade, however by enjoying positions. And Stram didn’t care if gamers didn’t prefer it.
The ultimate AFL season
The 1969 season started promising because the Chiefs posted a 6-Zero preseason report which included 4 victories towards NFL golf equipment. After successful their first two regular-season video games by a mixed 58-9 rating, the season seemed exceedingly shiny.
However, beginning QB Len Dawson suffered a small ligament tear in his left knee. Against the Cincinnati Bengals the next week, the staff misplaced 24-19 with backup QB Jacky Lee on the helm. More importantly, Lee suffered a separated shoulder.
After the loss, second-year backup QB Mike Livingston took the reins, discovered his rhythm and guided the squad to 4 extra victories together with a 24-Zero shutout over the Houston Oilers. This stretch would later be listed by NFL Network because the sixth-greatest Cinderella story in professional soccer historical past.
In Week eight, Dawson returned to assist defeat the Buffalo Bills 29-7. Then, simply two days earlier than enjoying the mighty Jets at Shea Stadium in New York, his father handed away. Dawson performed an inspiring recreation throwing three TDs because the Chiefs spanked the Jets, 34-16.
The remainder of the season the Chiefs received two and misplaced two, with each losses by the hands of the hated Raiders. At season’s finish, Oakland had received the division, posting a powerful 12-1-1 report whereas KC procured second place at 11-Three.
The league’s new playoff format that allowed second-place groups to qualify for the playoffs (for a brand new whole of 4 groups) breathed new life into the Chiefs postseason prospects.
However, that first playoff recreation was towards the Weeb Eubanks coached Jets. The defending Super Bowl champions had been led by the league co-MVP Namath. The Jets offense alone was well worth the worth of admission because it featured WRs Don Maynard and George Sauer, plus RBs Emerson Boozer and Matt Snell.
The recreation was predicted to be excessive scoring, however after three quarters, the rating was 6-6, with Kansas City’s factors approaching two Stenerud two subject objectives. Dawson then tossed a 61-yard strike to Taylor and on the following possession, Dawson discovered Richardson for the go-ahead rating. After two separate defensive stops, the excellent news turned a hard-fought Chiefs victory. The dangerous information was that the membership was now destined to face their bitter rivals as soon as once more—and on the street.
The ultimate AFL Championship Game
54,443 patrons crammed Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum for the 1969 AFL Championship Game on Jan. Four, 1970. The Raiders exuded confidence, having defeated the Chiefs 27-24 and 10-6 already this season and successful seven of the final eight conferences.
As if to take care of a theme, Oakland boasted the opposite half of the co-MVP award with their very own quarterback, Daryle Lamonica, who simply occurred to be one other two-time league MVP. In addition, Raiders head coach John Madden had been named the AFL Coach of the Year.
Oakland dominated the primary half, however the rating was knotted at 7-7 late in the second quarter. With the Raiders driving halfway in the third quarter, Chiefs’ CB Emmitt Thomas picked off Lamonica and was tackled at Kansas City’s personal 6-yard line. With a Third-and-14, Dawson dodged on-rushing defenders and floated a go from his personal finish zone to which Taylor miraculously caught over-the-shoulder in double protection for a primary down.
The Chiefs drove the rest of the sector for the go-ahead landing on Robert Holmes’ five-yard run with lower than 4 minutes left in the third. Stenerud would add a subject purpose, and miraculously the Chiefs had secured their third AFL title with a 17-7 victory.
Madden would later remark that Taylor’s catch on third-and-long was the distinction maker in the tight contest. It was additionally famous how violent the competitors was. Chiefs CB Jim Marsalis bruised a kidney; linebacker Jim Lynch broke his belt whereas making a vicious sort out, and security Johnny Robinson cracked a number of ribs. Lamonica had torn tendons in his hand.
The membership was as soon as once more AFL champions. But as a substitute of cleansing out lockers, ticker tape parades, champagne toasts and being offered with the important thing to the town, the Kansas City Chiefs needed to get able to play arguably their most fierce opponent up to now: the Minnesota Vikings.
Next up: Purple People Eaters
The Vikings. Of the NFL. The Purple People Eaters. Terror Twas the Norsemen. The Four Norsemen. The Black and Blue Division.
And worse but, the Chiefs solely had one week to arrange for Super Bowl IV in New Orleans.
The Vikings had a memorable protection spearheaded by its line of defense: Gary Larsen, Jim Marshall and future Hall of Famers, Carl Eller, and Alan Page. This bunch was nicknamed “The Purple People Eaters” and had as their motto, “Meet on the quarterback.” Among them, they’d in the end mix to play in 19 Pro Bowls. In truth, this 1969 season, all 4 males made the Pro Bowl.
This protection was the NFL’s stingiest, giving up the fewest factors and fewest yards. It additionally registered 50 sacks.
On the opposite aspect, the Chiefs protection was each bit as tenacious. LB Bobby Bell was a six-time AFL All-Star, three-time NFL Pro Bowler, was named to the AFL All-Time Team, later named to the NFL’s All-1970s staff, and the primary Chief elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame (HOF) in 1983. DT Buck Buchanan would make six AFL All-Star video games plus two Pro Bowls, and later be inducted into the HOF in 1992. Defensive finish Jerry Mays would seem in the AFL All-Star recreation seven occasions and be later named to the AFL’s All-Time Team.
LB Jim Lynch was chosen to one Pro Bowl. DT Curley Culp was chosen for one AFL All-Star staff and later for 5 Pro Bowls. He was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2013. CB Emmitt Thomas went to 5 Pro Bowls. LB Willie Lanier was named to the AFL All-Star squad twice, the Pro Bowl six occasions, and later named to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary Team. Safety Johnny Robinson was six occasions named to the AFL All-Star staff, three Pro Bowls, appointed to the AFL All-Time Team and has been inducted into 4 totally different sports activities Hall of Fames.
Of that 1969 protection, 9 gamers have since been elected to the Chiefs’ Hall of Fame.
The week main as much as Super Bowl IV, the oddsmakers instantly made the Vikings the clear winner and a 13-point favourite. The New York Times predicted a 31-7 Minnesota victory. The incontrovertible fact that the earlier 12 months’s Super Bowl noticed an enormous AFL underdog topple a closely favored NFL squad had little bearing on this recreation. Simply put, the AFL was as soon as once more being ignored as a viable, aggressive professional soccer league.
Yet once more, the league’s expertise stage was being underestimated.
To make issues harder, an argument was added to the Chiefs‘ agenda. A narrative broke on the NBC Network that Kansas City quarterback Len Dawson and 5 different gamers had been concerned in an internet of bookmakers. In the previous, the NFL had a number of cases of gamers linked to shady characters and playing, which in the league’s eyes represented a breach of public belief. The NFL handled every occasion swiftly and unhesitatingly, normally with gamers being closely fined and/or banished from the sport.
The NFL didn’t play when it got here to playing, particularly from gamers.
While the sport itself introduced a large number of media to New Orleans, this story noticed tons of extra immediately descend on the “Big Easy” wanting an opportunity at a colossal story previous to the big recreation. Dawson and Chiefs‘ publicist Jim Schaaf referred to as a press convention to which Dawson took the rostrum, and stated, “I have known (one of the bookmakers) for about 10 years. My only conversations with him in recent years concerned my knee injury and the death of my father. On these occasions, he called me to offer his sympathy. These calls were among the many I received. Gentlemen, this is all I have to say. I have told you everything I know.”
And with that, the story ended. None of the gamers had been ever subpoenaed and had been subsequently cleared of something unethical or iniquitous.
Another downside for the Chiefs was the bodily situation of All-Star security Robinson. His rib accidents continued all through the week and had been questionable at finest. Robinson was thought of one of the best to ever play his place and was the staff’s interception chief in 5 totally different seasons. His contribution to the sport was essential.
Super Bowl IV
The day of the sport was overcast and dreary. The web site of the sport was Tulane Stadium, an out of doors venue. The rain got here down in the early morning and later your entire metropolis was below a twister warning. When the Chiefs arrived on the stadium and entered their locker room, a particular second was ready for them: Stitched to every jersey was a patch commemorating the 10-year anniversary of the founding of the AFL.
The gamers had been in awe and wore that patch with delight. Their total league was like a brotherhood. They fought one another each week, but additionally fought towards the very league they’d quickly be becoming a member of to realize respect and recognition as an equal. For years.
As for the sport, the Vikings didn’t use tips or attempt to camouflage their offense. They merely ran the ball down the throats of different groups from all angles and dared opponents to cease them. The Chiefs’ teaching workers observed one thing that maybe their NFL counterparts had missed: Vikings middle Mick Tingelhoff was undersized at 235 kilos and though quick-footed, had hassle with heavier nostril tackles.
DT Buck Buchanan stood 6’7″ and weighed 285. The different DT, Curley Culp chimed in at 265 kilos. The Chiefs had been going to disrupt the Vikings run recreation by jamming the inside of the offensive line. Another defensive tactic was triple-stacking linemen with linebackers and safeties. This facet confused the Vikings’ offensive line with so many defenders going off in totally different instructions.
Another tactic that Coach Stram carried out was that when the Chiefs had the ball, they double-teamed each Eller and Page, thus eliminating their All-World presence. With this one piece of technique, Kansas City’s offense was capable of transfer the ball however needed to accept three Stenerud subject objectives to go up 9-Zero halfway via the second quarter. After the third FG, Vikings return man Charlie West fumbled the kickoff and the Chiefs recovered on the Vikings 19. All it took was three performs for RB Mike Garrett to search out the top zone and provides the Chiefs an astonishing 16-Zero halftime lead.
The Vikings had been capable of drive the sector in the third quarter and put collectively a 69-yard drive that culminated with Dave Osborn scoring from the Four-yard line. That lower the Chiefs edge to 16-7 and made the deficit a extra manageable one for the closely favored Vikings.
Kansas City’s response didn’t take lengthy—all one minute and 22 seconds, to be actual. The Chiefs drove from their very own 22 to Minnesota’s 46 in 5 performs. On first down, the Vikings blitzed and Dawson gently swung a brief go to Taylor who broke the sort out from the cornerback. He raced down the sector and stiff-armed security Karl Kassulke on the 10 earlier than going in for the rating and a 23-7 lead.
The Chiefs would intercept Minnesota thrice in the fourth quarter together with a number of sacks. The protection smelled victory and snuffed out any chance of a Viking comeback. For the day, Kansas City had three interceptions, recovered three fumbles and compelled six expensive offensive penalties. The recreation ended, and fittingly Coach Stram was hoisted onto the shoulders of the boys in whom he believed probably the most.
The Chiefs’ locker room was chaotic with multitudes of reporters. Several AFL coaches edged their approach into the pandemonium as properly, desirous to have a good time their league’s success, in addition to congratulate Stram. NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle offered franchise proprietor Lamar Hunt and Stram with the championship trophy.
Finally: Respect for the AFL
The President referred to as. The finish outcome was that the Chiefs had put their league in a 2-2 tie in Super Bowl wins with the established league. The Chiefs had received the AFL title and now celebrated their second championship in the identical season with successful Super Bowl IV.
The American Football League, all of the coaches and homeowners, each gear supervisor and entrance workplace particular person, present and former gamers, scouts and ticket-takers, lastly had gained what every had been looking for after 10 lengthy years: respect.
And it was at that exact same second that the league ceased to exist.
Barry Shuck is a professional soccer historic author and a member of the Professional Football Researcher’s Association